By Mary Koppenheffer
Even very committed fitness fans may experience a slump in February or March. Mornings and evenings are dark and the weather is cold. Recently, this area has seen snow and ice on the ground making even a walk outside difficult at times.
The Reuter YMCA in Biltmore Park offered some suggestions for maintaining fitness in the winter. For members, they have a large variety of classes beginning as early as 5:30 a.m. and extending through the day until 7:30 or 8 p.m. as well as their fitness rooms and equipment.
For those who may not be able to, or do not care to, go to the gym, YMCA Fitness Coach and instructor Kelly Harrison offered some workout ideas that can be done at home. They are based on one of his classes, called Athletic Conditioning. “Don’t be put off by the title,” he said, “there are very effective ways to modify all the exercises so they suit a wide variety of fitness needs.”
The key is in two parts. First, just get moving to increase heart rate. Second, introduce some weight training exercises. What he does in his class is bundle the two together into short bursts of activity, or intervals. His program is similar to the Tabata style training, but not as rigid. Traditional Tabata training consists of eight rounds of ultra-high-intensity exercises in a specific 20-seconds on, 10-seconds off interval.
The key message is “just move.” And to avoid injury, “start low and build slow,” referring to the amount of weight to add or intensity to introduce, which should be done gradually. Harrison advised participants start where they are in their fitness. “If you can’t do a push up on the floor, do one against a wall.”
A recent Athletic Conditioning class started with a five to ten minute warmup including easy lunges, flatfooted jumping and jogging in place. At home, walking up and down a flight of stairs a few times might be an effective warmup.
What followed were rounds of intervals that each lasted for a short period of time, just a few minutes, with a rest period in between. The class at times appeared to be controlled chaos, but that was simply participants working at their own level of fitness. While the class lasted an hour, Harrison pointed out that an effective workout may be done in 30 minutes at home a few times a week, just adapt the number of intervals to fit the schedule.
At home, Harrison also suggested adding music and downloading a fitness timer for the intervals and the rest breaks. Several free interval timers are available for smartphones.
The first interval round in class was squats and bicep curls for a few minutes. While weights and other equipment were available in the gym, squats can be done just with body weight, and bicep curls can be done holding a coupe of books or cans of soup in place of traditional weights.
What followed was a short rest break. “Maybe a minute, or longer as needed,” he said. Not enough to completely cool down.
The remaining intervals included moves like balance ball jumping jacks (could be done without the balance ball); jumping over a step (or stepping up and over as many in class did); lying on the floor with the balance ball and handing it back and forth from hands to feet to work the core. The point is to find some exercises that can be done at home that build both cardio and strength. To make it less daunting and more fun, breaking the sessions into intervals of only a few minutes each helps make the time go faster. Sessions end with a cool down to bring heart rate back to normal.
If exercising with a group helps with motivation, the Reuter YMCA invites local residents to stop by and pick up a guest pass to try out a class or their other facilities.